Two sisters act silly outside on a sunny day. They're laughing and each has an arm around the other.

8 games and activities young kids can play alone

As a work-from-home mom with three young kids, I know how imperative it is to set my kids up with fun and independent activities so I can get some work done without feeling like I need to entertain my kids all day. Of course, I love to spend time with them, but sometimes, I just need to quickly set up an activity that they can get lost in. 

Not only can getting my kids lost in fun activities give me some time to work, make dinner, or get some things done around the house, but it can also help them develop a true love for being active as they enjoy moving their bodies. Here are eight games and activities for kids to enjoy doing and playing independently.  

1. Water painting 

Provided you have a safe space for your kids to play outside, water painting can be a fun and mess-free activity. Simply set up a bucket of water with some paint brushes and let your kids go to town painting the house, the sidewalk, their toys, rocks—really anything goes. This can also be a great opportunity for them to practice their hand-eye coordination, grip strength, and penmanship skills. If you want to live on the wild side a bit, you can also provide washable paint. 

2. Keepy Uppy 

Popularized by the TV show Bluey but a longtime favourite of kids everywhere, Keepy Uppy challenges kids to keep a balloon in the air for as long as possible. They can count how many hits they get and try to break their record, or if they have a friend or sibling around, they can get a friendly game of volleyball going. If you’re going to let your kids play this game independently, just make sure they’re over three years old and can be trusted to keep the balloon out of their mouths. 

3. Cosmic Kids Yoga 

Found on YouTube, Cosmic Kids Yoga does involve screens, so that might be a dealbreaker for some families. However, it’s an engaging way to get kids moving and to help them learn more about what their bodies can do. And as the parent, all you need to do is turn on the TV. Jaime, a registered children’s yoga teacher, leads kids through yoga routines by telling stories and using fun names for traditional yoga poses. From Minecraft to Encanto, there is a Cosmic Kids Yoga video for virtually every interest. 

4. Bowling 

Bowling is a great game and it’s as simple as it sounds: set up some pins for your kids to roll a ball to knock them down. Show them how to reset the pins so they can play over and over again without needing your help. If you don’t have a bowling set at home, you can make one with any ball you have and simple household items like toilet paper rolls, empty cups, or milk cartons. A simple but fun physical activity!

5. Scavenger hunt

Before you write this one off as too much setup, try this easy scavenger hunt hack. Open ChatGPT or a similar AI chatbot and ask it to help you set up a scavenger hunt. For my hunt, I simply said, “Can you create a scavenger hunt for kids that gives pictures and clues to help them find the next location? Locations in the hunt include the bathroom, the front door, the bedroom, and the kitchen.”

I got a response with clues and picture ideas for every location. The first clue, to be placed at the start said, “Look for a place where you can find water to wash your hands.” For kids who can’t read yet, the chatbot suggested including a picture of a faucet. To set up my hunt, all I had to do was print out the clues and place them in the correct locations around the house. It may take a few minutes of setup, but it’s very fun and rewarding for kids. 

A little boy looks in a kitchen cupboard.

6. Hopscotch 

If you’re looking for something with a quicker setup, hopscotch is a classic game. Older kids will likely be able to draw their own hopscotch grid outside with chalk, but even if you have to draw it for younger kids, it only takes a minute or two. If you’re stuck inside, try creating a grid on the floor with painter’s tape. 

To play, toss a stone or small object onto the first square, then hop through the grid, skipping the square the stone is in. On the way back, pick up the stone. On the next turn, toss the stone into the second square and continue until players complete the grid. 

7. Speed cleaning

You’ll get more bang for your buck with this one when your kids suddenly enjoy cleaning up. For this activity, your kids will have to borrow your phone, iPad, or other device that can record using time lapse. Kids will set the device up to record their cleaning area, hit record, and start cleaning. When they’re done, the video will show them cleaning up in super speed. My kids always get a huge kick out of this and ask to do it over and over again. For some age-appropriate chore ideas, read this.

8. Nature scavenger hunt and craft

Provide your kids with a list of items they can find in your backyard. Items might include grass, leaves, rocks, pinecones, sticks, dirt, tree bark, flowers, etc. For kids who can’t read yet, print out pictures of the items to gather. Or try one of these free printables already created for you! Their goal is to gather all of the items on the list and then use them to make a picture or sculpture. They might make a face, a tree, a house, or anything else they can imagine. To make this one even easier to set up, simply tell your kids to find ten items in the yard. 

These simple games kids can play are fun ways to keep your little ones busy when you need a little quiet time to yourself. What else would you add to the list? Let us know!

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